EU: Expanding the Eurodac database: MEPs must put rights first


31 organisations, including Statewatch, have signed an open letter to MEPs working on new rules for the Eurodac database calling for a halt to negotiations so that the impact on human rights can be meaningfully taken into account.

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Eurodac (European dactyloscopy i.e. fingerprinting) was established in 2000 to assist in the implementation of the 'Dublin' rules for determining the member state responsible for processing an asylum application.

It currently stores the fingerprints of people who have registered an application for international protection in an EU member state, and persons apprehended in connection with irregular border crossings.

In 2020, almost 650,000 sets of fingerprints were transmitted to the central system (pdf); since 2016, negotiations have been ongoing on new rules that would massively expand the system as part of the EU's plans to ramp up deportations.

New types of data will be stored - including facial images - and it will be gathered from more people, in particular by lowering the minimum age for data collection to six (it is currently 14) and requiring the collection of data from new categories of person (irregular migrants, people disembarked following search and rescue operations, people eligible for resettlement within the EU).

The revamped Eurodac will also form a key part of the EU's "interoperability" architecture, which seeks to interconnect a number of large-scale databases to make the data more readily-accessible to the authorities.

The letter, coordinated by European Digital Rights, raises concerns over:

  • The inclusion of facial images in the system
  • The gathering of biometric data from children for purposes other than child protection
  • The possibility of coercion being used to obtain biometric data
  • The massively broadened scope of the system, allowing data collection from irregular migrants, disembarked persons, etc.
  • The possibility for records to be interlinked
  • Permissive law enforcement access and the possibility for authorities to add a "security flag" to records

It also highlights issues with the decision-making procedure:

  • Changes made to the text during secret "trilogue" meetings between the Council, Parliament and Commission
  • The lack of an impact assesment accompanying the proposal
  • Lack of cohesion with related policy files on migration, due to "fast-tracking" of the Eurodac text

The letter calls on MEPs in the civil liberties committee to:

"1. Implement a temporary delay to the legislative process to give due time for significant consideration of the fundamental rights implications of the proposed EURODAC reform;

2. Ensure the completion and publication of an impact assessment on the EURODAC reform by the European Commission, in compliance with the Better Regulation Principles. The LIBE Committe should require an impact assessment of the EURODAC proposal, analysing the intersections with the Migration Pack files and other related policy instruments. The Regulation should be developed in relation to the other intruments and afforded the same level of scrutiny by the Committee;

3. Ensure meaningful consultation with civil society working on the fundamental rights of migrants, children, data protection and digital rights with respect to the proposed changes to the EURODAC database;

4. Reconsider the proposals outlined above by both co-legislators insofar as they do not meet the principles of necessity and proportionality, unduly extend the purpose of the EURODAC database, fundamentally and unjustifably restrict the fundamental rights of migrants, and contribute to a harmful escalation of mass surveillance practices."

Read the full letter here: Fundamental rights concerns about the EURODAC reform (8 September 2021, pdf)

Image: William Clifford, CC BY 2.0

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